Lakers News: Russell Westbrook Believes He Has ‘Earned’ Right To Be In Closing Lineups
Russell Westbrook Giannis Antetokounmpo Lakers
(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Although the final score was within reason, the truth of the matter is that the Los Angeles Lakers were thoroughly beaten by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

All night, the Bucks had their way with the Laker defense as they constantly got shots either right at the rim or wide-open looks from beyond the arc. In the middle of the third quarter, Los Angeles went down by as many as 30 points and looked well on their way to a massive blowout on national television.

As has been the case a lot recently, the Lakers made a last-gasp effort to try and climb back into the contest and succeeded, albeit with Russell Westbrook on the bench. The Lakers cut their deficit to just 10 with a fourth-quarter run before the Bucks closed it out.

After the game was well in hand for the Bucks, Westbrook was seen talking to LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the bench, and he revealed what he said to them.

“Just give them encouragement. Just keep their head up, keep playing. Tough night and I told them I wish I could help them,” Westbrook said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the game to be able to help them and that’s why I came here to be able to help them out. So, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that for them, but that’s not my call. I can be there as a leader and as a voice and whatever that is needed for the team and that’s what I’ll do until my number or whatever is called at that time.”

The topic of whether or not Westbrook should be in the Lakers’ closing lineup has been a hot one as of late with this being the third time the point guard has been on the bench to close a game.

Westbrook was very candid this time around, stating that he feels he deserves to be in the closing lineup although understands that’s not his decision.

“Who me? I don’t have that answer for you, brother. I wish I did,” Westbrook said when asked if he’s been given a benchmark of how well he has to play to close. “I shouldn’t have to hit any benchmark, to be honest. I put a lot of work. I’ve got a lot of respect in this game. I don’t have to hit a benchmark. I shouldn’t have to. I’ve earned the right to be in closing lineups. Numbers will tell you.

“I don’t have to explain that, but like I said, once again, it ain’t my decision. That’s his decision that he and his coaching staff think that’s best for the game. Unfortunately, just kind of have to go with it and figure it out the best way that I can and be there for my teammates as much that I can and make sure that I come to work and do my job as a professional.”

It is has been telling that Vogel has opted to ride out close games without Westbrook in the lineup considering the Lakers traded for him to be a third star next to James and Davis. This is now the second consecutive night the guard has been left on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, which speaks volumes about the amount of trust Vogel might have in him right now.

Even with the trade deadline swiftly approaching, it is unlikely the Lakers are able to trade Westbrook given his contract and lack of assets. For now, it seems the two sides are going to just have to try and make it work like they have been all season.

Westbrook hasn’t spoken to Vogel about lineup decisions

While players and coaches should have a good dialogue as far as lineups and what works, Westbrook revealed that he hasn’t spoken to Vogel at all about not closing games.

“No, he hasn’t. I don’t need him to be clear about whatever decision he makes… That’s up to him. My job as a professional is to come to work, be in a positive mindset, put my head down. Do my work to the best of my ability and be there to encourage my teammates. That’s it.”

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